Ergonomics and office stress.

The modern air conditioned office is a surprisingly stressful environment. Long Healthy officehours spent in a physiologically unfriendly environment, leads to high levels of morbidity.  Although often not reported, minor morbidity undermines the efficiency and productivity of the individual. Dependent upon the environmental conditions occurring in a particular office this reduction in overall performance ranges from 18% to 52%  Poor seating in addition to resulting in spinal breakdown if prolonged acts as a stressor.  

Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 21.15.34Environmental stressors can be identified, quantified and relatively easily corrected.   When addressed up to 40% increase in productivity is permanently achieved.   with reduction of morbidty, abseteeism and churn rate.

 A 3M chair should be considered as part of an office optimisation in addition to the other office stress factors which are described below.    The future lies with desk-less stations described under the 4M version 

  This post considers the less obvious environmental components. in addition to ergonomically incorrect furniture.


  • Lighting by ordinary fluorescent tubes emit light mainly in a narrow band at the yellow end of the spectrum stimulating Only some 8% of the photo-receptors in the retina are (as compared to 79% in daylight).   25% of the light is lost as ‘glare’ , containing no visual information.   A 52 cycle ‘flicker’ (in UK) is detected by the eye although not registered by the conscious mind.
  • Micro-climatic conditions in most offices are equivalent to the stressful conditions  that occur before a thunderstorm or during prolonged desert winds due to the positive ionisation caused by electrical and electromagnetic (EMF) emissions from the multiplicity of machines in the modern office. 
  • Toxic Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde, are given off by new furniture and carpets and are cumulative toxins
  • Microparticles.   Particulate pollutants are potentially pathogenic, and are therefore stressors.. The high levels found in industrial society are even higher in an enclosed office space where some are being produced.   Viruses, bacteria, moulds and their spores are provided with ideal culture habitats and also dispersal systems through inadequate air conditioning.  Microparticles of carbon derived from incinerated shed squame skin cells can penetrate the lining epithelium of the lungs and blood vessels and are thought to have an effect on the autoimmune system.   
  • Acoustics.  Sound is a far  more common physiological stressor than most people realise.     Office equipment generate saw-tooth sounds which are used by animals as aggressive warning signals and square-wave sounds which are used for identification.  although discounted by our intelligence, acts as an alarm signal on the primitive part of the brain resulting in a continuous state of unrecognised stress and activation of the hypothalamic-pituitry-adrenal neuro-humeral cascade
  • Space & visibility.   Users should have clear all round visibility so there is no sense of isolation. Each individual has his or her own clearly identified space, which is close enough to provide a sense of group space.

For further reading

Office envSee below for a number of articles on this subject in this  work,   Being long and more medically orientated, they are not included in the menu.